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Football Family: The Story of Jim Algeo and the Rare Breed of Lansdale
Football Family: The Story of Jim Algeo and the Rare Breed of Lansdale
Football Family: The Story of Jim Algeo and the Rare Breed of Lansdale
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Football Family: The Story of Jim Algeo and the Rare Breed of Lansdale

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Come along for the ride with Coach Jim Algeo, his family, and the Rare Breed of Lansdale, one of Pennsylvania's most storied high school football traditions. In Football Family, readers are invited to join the nearly fifty-year journey as told by the fifth of his nine children. From her earliest memories as the child of a high school football coach, Bridget Algeo meanders through the celebrated career of one the state's most respected coaches, as well one of its strongest sports programs. Readers will travel with the Rare Breed, driven by its "Faith, Family, Football" mantra, and their come-from-behind wins, miracle plays, Thanksgiving Day battles, quests for championship titles, and all things that bind fans of the unique experience that is high school football.
Release dateJul 9, 2019
Football Family: The Story of Jim Algeo and the Rare Breed of Lansdale
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    Football Family - M. Bridget Algeo

    Copyright © 2019 M. Bridget Algeo

    All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof

    may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever

    without the express written permission of the publisher

    except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

    Disclaimer: This book is a memoir. It reflects the author’s present recollections of experiences over time. No names and events have been changed, and citation, mention, and commentary of factual information regarding people, places, and things have been listed under Acknowledgments or within the memoir itself under the spirit of fair use. Any views or opinions expressed in the work are strictly and solely that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated.

    Print ISBN: 978-1-54397-391-4

    eBook ISBN: 978-1-54397-392-1

    Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB),

    Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,

    1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

    Used by permission. www.Lockman.org

    All other trademarks, trade names or company names referenced herein are used for identification purposes only and are the property of their respective owners.

    Dedicated to my parents,

    Big Jim & Mick

    Table of Contents



    Chapter One - Sunrise

    Chapter Two - Dreams in the Heart

    Chapter Three - Three Green Fields

    Chapter Four - Sons of the Seventies

    Chapter Five - Sons of the Eighties

    Chapter Six - Sons of the Nineties

    Chapter Seven - The Challenge

    Chapter Eight - The Comeback

    Chapter Nine - Our Heartbreak

    Chapter Ten - Triumph at Sunset

    In Gratitude

    The Rare Breed

    Credits and Acknowledgments


    Rare Breed Connections


    By Mike Stern

    Be prepared to laugh. Be prepared to cry. Be prepared to celebrate life and faith. Be prepared to love.

    Whether you are a young student, a grizzled athletics coach or administrator, a loving, caring mom or dad, or someone who plays or enjoys football or any other sport, your heart will be caressed as you read this story about a very special family and the multitude of students and athletes whom their lives touched.

    Football Family is a well-paced memoir about a special family – the Algeos of Lansdale, Pennsylvania — whose mother, father, sisters and brothers each follow God’s plan to serve others by working together. They put into play a winning team spirit, enabling them to become outstanding teachers, coaches, and active community contributors. They have touched and continue to positively impact so many other lives to make a profound, lasting and positive impact on literally tens of thousands of young people across three generations.

    Football Family is also a compelling recapitulation about how a multi-generation family has jubilantly shared triumph while remaining emotionally dependent on one another in the stark face of horrible tragedy.

    Beautifully written by Ms. Bridget Algeo – the fifth oldest of Jim and Mary Margaret Mickey Algeo’s nine children – Football Family is more than just a football story or an homage to the achievements of a legendary high school coach of the gridiron. It is an insightful celebration of a devout Catholic man who realized that God’s plan for him was to serve others, not as a person of the cloth, but as a giving, loving individual who used other types of pulpits... in the classroom, on the gridiron, and in the community to make a significant difference in others’ lives.

    Coach Algeo’s success is a tribute to the devotion he put forward in his students, his athletes, and his wife and children. He played a significant role to help them become successful within his realm, and after they transitioned into college students and adults.

    As a sportswriter who covered Lansdale Catholic athletics from the fall of 1977 through the spring of 1981, I saw first-hand how Coach Algeo made a profound impact on his student-athletes.

    Because his student-athletes were well-served and became successful, Jim Algeo, Sr. has earned and has been recognized with a multitude of impressive honors.

    The same year his 2004 Lansdale Catholic Crusaders competed for the Pennsylvania state championship, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Four years later, he was named the second-ever Robert T. Clark Award winner at the 71st Annual Maxwell Football Club’s 2008 event.

    A 2011 inductee into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Coach Algeo combined his passion for teaching and coaching with a father’s love. He spent a lifetime serving as a staunch ally and demanding leader of young people, coaxing and enabling his students and athletes to succeed in all of their endeavors.

    His 295 victories in 44 years as head football coach at Lansdale Catholic High School rank Coach Algeo among the top 20 coaches in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

    What adds even more to this compelling feel good story is that Mickey and Jim instilled these same qualities in their nine sons and daughters, several of whom have gone on to become teachers and coaches. And, those who went into business or related callings are regarded as solid teammates in those fields. Each child has made a significant impact on others, in the classroom, on the sporting turf or arena, in the boardroom, and in the community.

    Perhaps Bridget put it best when she reflected on her upbringing. I was raised on the concept of team. Not only within my family, but with the young ladies who worked alongside me as student-athletes to achieve a common goal and strive for excellence while shooting for championships. Team comes in so many forms, like a classroom full of kids undertaking a service project.

    Coach Algeo and his oldest child, Maggie Algeo deMarteleire, became the first father-daughter tandem to earn induction into the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Sports Hall of Fame. Following in her dad’s footsteps, Mrs. deMarteleire built an impressive girls basketball program at North Penn High school in Lansdale. In her 15 seasons at the Lady Knights’ helm, Coach deMarteleire led the Crusaders to 10 PAC-10 titles, 15 district playoff berths, and seven attempts for the state championship. She ended her coaching career with a whopping 534 wins registered by young lady athletes from both Lansdale Catholic and North Penn.

    Jim Algeo, Sr. also had the privilege of coaching each of his sons; Jim, Jr., Dan, and John Patrick in addition to his grandson, Mike deMarteleire, Jr. He also has coached with all four, in addition to his son-in-law, Mike deMarteleire, Sr., as part of his LC football staff. Two of his sons have advanced to coach successfully at the varsity high school level. Jim Algeo, Jr. is an assistant coach at Spring-Ford High School following a similar and lengthy stint at Pottsgrove High School. Danny became one of only two head coaches to win Catholic League football titles with different schools – at Roman Catholic in 1999 and Cardinal O’Hara in 2004.

    In addition, Jim, Jr. and Mary Wilson’s daughter (Coach Algeo’s granddaughter), Shannon Algeo, recently completed her third season as head women’s lacrosse coach at Gwynedd Mercy University after a two-year stint as assistant coach at Marywood University in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

    When speaking or writing about the Algeo family, you might say that the ball didn’t fall too far from the (kicking) tee.


    The Rare Breed

    You will read the phrase Rare Breed throughout this story. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a rare breed is a relatively rare group. The website Rare Breed, LLC states that the concept of Rare Breed was born in 1968 in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. It is a phrase that signifies the toughness, determination, and commitment made by student-athletes and coaches involved with the Crusaders’ football program.

    I take that to mean that the group’s members are special…they possess virtues and skills that are both specific to the task at hand, and which many others cannot and do not possess.

    By its very nature, the sport of football requires a certain mental and physical toughness to play, and an undying commitment to try, try again when it comes to game-planning against opponents who may be bigger in size and numbers, and more talented at key positions.

    For me, being a rare breed type of athlete at Lansdale Catholic High meant someone who one who would run through a brick wall to make a tackle, throw a block, or reach the end zone without a second thought.

    And that’s what I witnessed back in the day.

    As a sportswriter for The Reporter (previously named The North Penn Reporter until its sale to Gannett Corporation in 1980) in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, I saw first-hand the Rare Breed spirit of LC football in every student-athlete and coach, and on every down in every game. As one Intercounty League rival school’s linemen put it following a tough loss to the Green and Gold, Man, they just never quit. They play the game like every play is the most important one.

    This Rare Breed spirit is the embodiment of the school’s football program. It also reflects and represents the Algeo Football Family, and its members’ commitment to serving God, serving the school and community, and serving their fellow man on and off the gridiron.

    I am pleased to share the following special moments, both from my experience of covering LC’s Rare Breed of football, as well as my treasured relationship with the Algeo Football Family.


    A Relationship for the Gridiron…..and Beyond

    It’s somewhat ironic that as a print and broadcast journalist, I have been able to intelligently cover organized football at a high level. As we shall see, I have Jim Algeo, Sr. to thank for that.

    You see, I never played the game. Despite my large frame en route to becoming a 6-foot-1, 260-pound adult, I never endured or completed a block or tackle during an organized football game.

    Fearful of the potential for physical and even mental injury with which the gridiron would surely punish me, my mom, Marlene Mickey Alper Stern, refused to sign the parent permission slip allowing me to play football for the Olney Eagles and later, at Olney High School in Philadelphia.

    Our dad, Ray Stern (of blessed memory), went along with Mom despite the fact that he was a huge college and pro football fan who spent many a weekend day watching games unfold on the family television.

    I did play high school varsity baseball; I made up for my lack of speed with a lack of range. I was a good hit, but klutzy defensive player. I could’ve served as a designated hitter, but in the early 1970s, the DH wasn’t yet a part of high school baseball. But I did become a first-rate in-uniform scorekeeper and play-by-play announcer of Olney High JV and varsity baseball.

    Thankfully, God gave me the talent to write and speak clearly and with some creativity and sense of drama, enough so that my skill set eventually led me to the sidelines and press boxes of inner-city and suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Dallas, Texas. I became a reporter/writer, moving into the magical realm of the high school, college, and pro gridiron.

    My God-given writing talent also led me into a fortuitous relationship with the Algeo family, one that has reinforced my tenets regarding faith and family.

    As both a print and broadcast journalist, I have been blessed to cover football amid the color and excitement at various north Texas high school football venues under the lights, and at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. I also have reported from the sidelines during college football games at Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas, and on the professional level at cathedrals such as Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

    Yes, I have experienced the buzz of speaking live on-camera amid the roaring crowds, reporting on a crucial victory or a demoralizing setback, and have felt the buzz associated with on and off camera interviews involving much-idolized coaches and players.

    But the most lasting, meaningful and rewarding relationship I have ever enjoyed within football has been and still is with Lansdale Catholic High School Head Football Coach Jim Algeo, Sr. and his loving family. In addition to reinforcing my values of family and friendship, covering Coach Algeo and his LC Rare Breed student-athletes taught me more about football – and how it is played — than I ever could have hoped.


    Hello, Coach Algeo

    I joined The North Penn Reporter, a Monday through Saturday newspaper based in Lansdale, Pennsylvania in September of 1977. This was just a few months after I became the first member of my family to earn a college diploma, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications at Temple University in Philadelphia.

    To say I was green behind the ears was an understatement. I was very knowledgeable about team sports and had traversed my share of football sidelines, basketball scorer’s tables, and baseball backstops as a student-journalist at Olney High and at Temple’s 90.1 megahertz radio station, WRTI-FM. I had written for newspapers and magazines and had broadcast play-by-play, color commentary and post-game recaps on radio.

    But I had a lot to learn, and I knew it.

    After spending the ’77 football season covering Bux-Mont League schools in outlying communities such as Doylestown (CB East and CB West) Perkiomen Valley, Upper Perkiomen, Souderton, Ambler (Wissahickon) and Quakertown as a part-time writer, I had proven myself worthy of being hired full-time just as the basketball season was tipping off.

    When I was assigned to the Lansdale Catholic High School athletics beat in December 1977, someone in The North Penn Reporter newsroom mentioned to me that Coach Algeo could be very loud and offensive, or words to that effect. When I entered the school for the first time, to cover my inaugural Crusader sporting event – a boys basketball game – the very first person to greet me was... Jim Algeo, Sr. He had the build of an interior lineman, with thick shoulders and arms...and a friendly Irish ear-to-ear grin. He shook my hand in earnest, thanked me for coming and for covering that night’s game, and did so with a very soothing, reassuring voice. He also complimented me on my writing.

    I suddenly realized that the description of Coach Algeo was from the practice field during the week, and from the sidelines on game day. To a young, unsure sportswriter, he was every bit the gentleman, educator, and ambassador.

    Little did I know that this marked the onset of a lasting professional and personal relationship with Coach Algeo and his engaging, loving family. This friendship would enable me to understand what the Rare Breed commitment is, and the lessons and virtues of a Football Family.


    The Game Within the Game

    For me, a rookie sportswriter, Coach Algeo was an endless source of information that I used to add depth to my coverage of football, whether it was Lansdale Catholic, other high schools, or Coach Dick Vermeil’s Philadelphia Eagles.

    I was in relentless pursuit of information regarding the proverbial game within the game, and would ask questions on the team bus to and from Intercounty League schools located in southeastern Pennsylvania towns like Robesonia, Birdsboro, and Reading, as well as after practices and games.

    I also would speak with the coach when he attended other LC sports events such as girls and boys basketball and baseball. For example, this was how I learned about the importance of why an offensive lineman had to explode through their opponents on the defensive line while continuously pumping their feet. On the opposite side of the ball, I learned that the effective linebacker needed to take small steps in the direction of the read on the offensive linemen. And, upon making contact with the ball carrier, how and why the linebacker had to transition his arms from back to front in order to wrap him up and complete the tackle.

    This lesson, and countless others related to the gridiron, helped make me a better writer and broadcaster when I relocated to football-religious Texas a few years later.


    Drama on the Sideline

    Contemporary facilities enable many of today’s sports reporters to sit in some form of a press box where they keep ongoing statistics and make notes for use in their game stories. But in the fall of 1978 in Pennsylvania, journalists covering high school football dressed appropriately for the weather and traversed the sideline of the team they were covering with legal pad and writing implement(s) in hand. A good pair of sneakers was also an important tool of the trade.

    With tools in hand (and on my feet), I was poised to document stats from the next play. Then the drama caught my eye. I watched it unfold on the Lansdale Catholic sideline just a few feet away during my inaugural experience of covering Crusaders’ varsity football. It was a warm Indian summer evening at Pennbrook Middle School Stadium, and midway through the first quarter senior defensive lineman John Walsh and Head Coach Jim Algeo were discussing containment of the opponents’ rushing attack in a somewhat animated tone.

    Walsh said something along the lines of Coach, I’m bangin’ and hittin’ ‘em and I got my footing and they’re sliding away from me and they’re holdin’ me and I’m this close from making the tackle. John had respectfully removed his helmet to address his mentor. He was yelping in the direction of his coach, in a very uncharacteristic mood, his face sweating profusely and his eyes wild with emotion, overexertion, and confusion.

    Walsh, the latest in a steady line of brothers who studied and played football at LC, had blond hair and good looks that gave him a strong resemblance to actor Richard Thomas’s portrayal of character John-Boy Walton in the TV show The Waltons. And he was definitely out of character. On the basketball court, classroom, and locker room, he was quiet, mannerly, and soft-spoken. Put him on a gridiron, and he quickly transformed into a Tasmanian devil.

    Coach Algeo quickly responded to Walsh, marking the first time I would hear The Voice. He bellowed something like You gotta get in there and make a statement!

    Not unlike other gridiron gurus, the coach’s gameday demeanor was somewhere between a union rabble-rouser on a strike line and an embattled general leading his troops onto a beachhead. Coach Algeo was growling in his trademark tenor as he gestured wildly with his clipboard and glared at Walsh. We didn’t practice this scheme and technique all week for them to go through us like a hot knife through butter! You gotta make a difference in there, John. They’ll (his LC teammates) follow you anywhere, but you gotta lead the way. Now get back in there, make a tackle and make a difference!!!

    Although the player and coach seemed to be arguing with each other, they were actually verbally working through a disturbing issue that threatened to derail the Crusaders. Coach Algeo taught, game-planned and led his athletes with an uncompromising passion, and that trait (along with several other virtues) often rubbed off on his student-athletes to make them proficient players and better people.

    Walsh and his defensive teammates altered their technique, began controlling the line, and enabled the offense to work its magic en route to a triumph. As the game continued, Coach Algeo amicably tapped Walsh’s shoulder pad as the two discussed a specific approach to containing the opponent’s attack. They also exchanged the kinds of glances that indicated they had worked through their issues, and that everything had returned to normal.

    Interviewing Coach Algeo at midfield post game, I found him to be even-mannered and calm of voice, humble in victory, and extremely accommodating while answering my questions.

    Later, while writing the game story at The North Penn Reporter offices at 307 Derstine Avenue, I reflected on the sideline conversation between the coach and John Walsh.

    It confirmed what I initially realized — that Jim Algeo, Sr. was indeed a very special leader of students and athletes.


    The Growl and A Fatherly Voice

    During each autumn of the three seasons that I covered Lansdale Catholic football for The Reporter, I would visit one of their practices each week to speak with Coach Algeo and his student-athletes for feature stories and a preview of the upcoming opponent.

    I always made sure to arrive early enough to watch the tail end of practice. This was a time when I might learn something with which to add some insights, some depth, to my coverage of football.

    I also was able to watch the unfolding of another drama, one that reflects the ongoing rapport between the players and their coaches. In addition to the screaming and yelling that highlight each session, there were also those private chats between a coach and player.

    Coach Algeo and his assistants managed to combine

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